Dec 11, 2014

Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Everyone wants you to lead the revolution but you're a big dummy...
What's a beautiful archer to do!?
Oof. I really went into the newest Hunger Games movie with the best attitude I could muster. Sure, the third book is the weakest in the series, and splitting it into two movies seems like a cash grab with no other reason behind it, but I really wanted to like the movie. It's got actors I really love, including newcomer-to-the-series Julianne Moore, and the movie promised some new locales, a meatier role for Liam Hemsworth, and some interesting thoughts about the perils and pitfalls of war. But... oof (2X), this movie is a dreary mess. Its plodding narrative is matched only by its overuse of exposition.  But there are some silver linings on these noxious, money-grubbing clouds. Let's look it over.

The most boring love triangle of all time
The third film picks up where we left off, with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence, turning in her worst performance to date) learning that District 12 is NO MORE. All the survivors of its destruction have run away to the mysterious District 13 (D13), long-since assumed to have been incinerated by The Capitol. Turns out, it's just moved underground, lively as ever (JK it's super dull) and building up towards a guerilla-style revolution. With Katniss at their side, they can't lose! Except Katniss, as has been previously established, is the world's worst leader, incapable of showcasing emotion and pretty bad at delivering stirring speeches. To help her our, her old pals Gale Hawthorne (Hemsworth), Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), and Adele Dazeem team up to shoot fun propaganda videos and sway the masses to fight against The Capitol and the dreaded President Snow. D13 President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) is counting on the success of these videos, so she enlists Capitol-escapee and documentarian Margaery Tyrell Cressida (Natalie Dormer) to film them. Oh, and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) has been taken prisoner by The Capitol, and Katniss really wants him to be rescued. Nobody else seems to care, which is alarming, given that he's ostensibly the second lead in the franchise.

From the book, the film promised to be a lot of scenes where people talk while sitting and/or standing around tables, and, boy-oh-boy, does it deliver on that promise! People love speechifying in this movie while staring at Katniss and shouting things like "she's not ready" and "she's the worst" and "God, I wish another District had gotten her in the divorce." It's uncomfortable, made even more so by the fact that Katniss is, indeed, kind of terrible at leading a revolution.  Thankfully, this builds to one of the best collection of scenes in the movie, wherein everyone takes a trip to District 12 to loosen up old Katty E and show the people in the district what The Capitol has done. It also provides the perfect opportunity for Katniss to break out her husky, melodious voice and sing a really beautiful song about love and suicide and death. It's actually really affecting.

Alma - Check your battery!
Elsewhere in the movie, people can't stop saying each other's names, and it turns out Julianne Moore isn't great at making names like "Plutarch" and "Beetee" seem natural when she says them. She can't even say "Panem" without sounding like she's only ever seen the word written down. Which, honestly, just draws more attention to the fact that the names in this movie/book series are ridiculous. And, other that that, she's just kind of there. Hopefully we'll see more of her in the next movie, and she won't seem so brittle and unnecessary.

Speaking of bad acting, Liam Hemsworth is not turning into the great actor we were all hoping for. I've been sipping from the Hemsworth Kool-Aid for so long, it took me until this movie to realize that he's kind of terrible at acting. And his chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence is virtually non-existent. Every time they kiss, it feels like the filmmakers are wandering into Luke-Leia territory. I think my roommate (and bibliophile) put it best when she said, "He's pretty, but dumb as a stone." Thank goodness Josh Hutcherson shows up every once in a while, even if his scenes are either all soft-focused and boring or full of strangling!

On the flip-side of that, Elizabeth Banks is back and as delightful as ever as Effie. Adding her into the movie, when she isn't really in the book, is a smart move. Also smart -- casting Natalie Dormer as the delightfully bad-ass Cressida. On the coolness scale of documentary filmmakers, she's on the opposite end of the spectrum from Michael Moore, with Morgan Spurlock somewhere in the middle.

It's a muddled mess filled with empty speeches and perfunctory performances from a high-calibre cast (I'm sure it was a fun set, but people were clearly spending more time hanging out than working). Still, despite all that, the film leaves viewers hopeful for a possibly-incredible finale. All hope is not gone. Try as I might, I still have faith in this boring bird, even if its wings are slightly broken and the only songs it sings bum me out.

Film Grade: C

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...